31 Mar Where A ‘Promdi Heart’ Goes (Part 3): An Interview with Jay E. Tria and Georgette S. Gonzales
BY KB MENIADO
The start of April—which is tomorrow!—usually means vacation, and if you’re still looking for places to get away to, here’s Promdi Heart, a romance anthology set in different Philippine provinces.
Did I say places? I meant, pages! Once you get your hands on this, you would definitely start planning your itinerary and looking at bus and plane schedules! (This book, by the way, is also good for #BookbedReadsPHLit!)
Alice finds herself stuck in a cemetery in her hometown of Hagonoy every All Saint’s Day. What makes it interesting though is Son, that cute boy who sits next to her, claiming to be a musician.
Hi Jay! One Certain Day is set in Hagonoy, Bulacan, and I loved how you took me around town with your story. Can you talk more about what you love about being in your province?
I love how time comes in slow, lazy waves when I’m there. So different from the city. It makes me feel out of sync at first, but if I let it, the pace actually makes the place a good retreat. I get to sit down and talk to my cousins and aunts and catch up, or catch up on sleep. I have complex feelings about how everyone there knows each other, and how neighbors and old friends come by unannounced with food while also expecting to be fed. It’s all fascinating to me. And I love how people (at least, my family) don’t stop cooking, hence we don’t stop eating. It’s like we’re all scared of the acrid bite of hunger.
Speaking of fascinating, Alice and Son connected on—of all days—All Saints’ Day. Now, who would you like to spend All Saints’ Night with, camping out at the cemetery, and what would you do?
Doesn’t the cemetery get scary at night? I had sudden creepy images flashing in my head. But if I had my sisters and my cousins there with me I think I’d feel braver. It could be fun. My sisters and girl cousins would be more courageous than the boys, but the boys would be good company because they have the most absurd stories. We’d play cards and pass around chips and devour cheese boat tarts and inipit.
No old classmate to reconnect with, like Alice?
There’s a high school friend who owes me guitar lessons. And another friend who I haven’t “caught up with” in social media apparently because she’s not on social media. How remarkable and strange while also so characteristic of this person. We should catch up soon, the face-to-face, old-fashioned way.
Son writes and sings for Alice. Have you ever written/sung something for somebody you liked?
That would likely have ruined all chances I might’ve had, hahaha. So, no. I had to write a non-fiction piece for a Creative Writing elective once though, and yeah. Feelings on paper. I got a 1.0 on that. Score.
If we meet Alice and Son today, where would they be and what would they be doing?
They’d be in the city, both of them, faced with the aftermath of their last cemetery camping day. Maybe there’d be a bottle of Johnnie between them, too.
A long time ago, Bridgette bullied Miguel no end, he always ended up crying. What happens now that they are both back in the neighborhood and living next to each other?
Hi, Georgette! In Once Upon A Bully, two old childhood enemies~ meet again after many years, and of course, they find each other different from what they used to be. Do you have a similar experience? Can you also talk about where you found the inspiration for this story?
When I was in elementary, I was the one being bullied. Teacher’s pet, smart kid, that kind of stuff. There’s a guy, though, who was being partnered with me all throughout elementary school because he was my dance partner during our kindergarten graduation. And kasi, I, uh… I kissed him so the classmates thought we’re a match made in heaven. Eh, sorry, I haven’t seen him since we all left Grade 6!
Bridgette and Miguel’s story was a close friend’s personal story. She bullied her elementary classmate until he cried and when he did, she’d threaten him some more that if the teacher caught him and he points to her as the culprit, she’d pinch him some more. Yep, exactly as Bridgette did to Miguel!
Years later, my friend, already newly married to her long-time boyfriend and living at an apartment near her old neighborhood, was sweeping their front yard. She catches a glimpse of a guy in the apartment across the street and lo and behold, it was chubby kid from elementary days! She actually ran back indoors and just peeped through the window to wait and see if it was safe for her to go back out, out of his sight.
The idea of reuniting with long-lost childhood friends does bring a little anxiety! But let’s talk childhood. As a student, Bridgette was proud of her big box of crayons in 64 different colors—which I completely get, by the way. If, for example, you go back to elementary school today, what would we find you showing off?
I’d probably show off a new bag, a new lunch box, new pencil case with new pens and pencils. I had long hair when I was a child, so maybe I could also show off the new hair clips my mom got for me. Oohhh! And stationery! I loved those pretty papers. Scented!
I had folders and folders of stationery, too! But I didn’t have a Miguel, haha. Speaking of, he used to be a chubby kid who grew up to be—no other word for it—hot. (Hello, tinkering with engines and participating in marathons??) If you could cast a then Miguel and a now Miguel for the hypothetical screen adaptation of your story, who would you pick?
When we were planning for the promo stuff for this, I said I saw Miguel as Dingdong Dantes. Haha! Although I doubt that he had a chubby phase in his life. Maybe Baste (cute kid on “Eat Bulaga”) could be a Miguel of the past.
I’m sure even celebrities used to have baby fat! Anyway, I love the part where Bridgette and Miguel stroll around Vigan, visiting Calle Crisologo and the Baluarte. However, that was a daytime date. Where would they go for a nighttime date in the city and what would they do?
Nighttime? They won’t stroll. They’d stay home and probably watch TV (weh?). There’s not much night life in Vigan City. At least, not the Vigan I remember. Café Leona would be a nice place to have dinner in, though. But mostly, Ilocanos would go home and cook for themselves.
That’s the way to go! Home-cooked food is the best. Now, if you had to eat just one between these two for seven days straight, which one would it be—tinubong or Vigan empanada?
Empanada! Because tinubong is sweet rice cake and difficult to prepare so storage is difficult. It ends up getting moldy. Empanada can be cooked fresh as you like them and more a complete meal with the veggies and an egg and pieces of longganisa inside.
If you had to pick another Philippine province to be born to, where would it be and why?
Jay: Cebu. I feel like it has everything. A bit of the city but not too much of it, not just yet. Just enough with its ATMs and malls and you know, Uniqlo and Tim Ho Wan. And it has beaches and mountains and old churches and the smell of the ocean. And yes, cheap, delicious food. Cheap, delicious buffet. A close second is Negros, also because of proximity to the beach and the wonderful food.
Georgette: Where I lived the last eight years before I left for the US: Negros Oriental. First time I went there was in 2000, I think, and I liked the feel of the place. My father hails from Ilocos Sur, but honestly, I have never thought of living there. It would have been easier for me, because I spoke Ilocano, and I only knew a few words in Bisaya, so getting by would have been a breeze if I went up north. But I dunno, I just loved Dumaguete.
What would be good books to bring along for vacation?
Jay: Romance, of course. Nothing like a book with kissing to seal the happy, colorful new memories you’re making. I like rereading Harry Potter too when I’m in Bulacan, but the elders disapprove because they can’t get me to leave the room. For trips elsewhere I bring one of my books with me. I feel like they deserve the vacation, hehe.
Georgette: Hmm… something contemporary. Either romance or military or murder mystery. *winks*
Any good old piece of advice about love?
Jay: Be brave. Your heart can take it.
Georgette: Love… don’t force it. If it’s there, it’s there. And before you hanker after the love of another, learn to love yourself first. Learn to love your aloneness. Learn to love the incompleteness in your life. ☁